Super 8 Review
Does the latest from J.J. Abrams deliver on all the hype or is it only a pale imitation of the works of the mighty Spielberg?
Have you ever sat through a summer popcorn film, and then suddenly, for no good reason, the movie stops dead in it's tracks for some sort of forced, emotional scene of character development? The scene really adds nothing to the story and you can tell the writers threw it in just to make the characters seem less like cardboard cut outs. It happens all too often in Hollywood, but thankfully, Super 8 isn't that movie.
Super 8 is director J.J. Abrams' tribute to the master of multi-layered popcorn flicks, Stephen Spielberg, and much like Spielberg, Abrams masterfully balances character development and big, sweeping action. One could argue that many times in the movie, the journey of the main characters from child to adult is actually far more fascinating than the "monster ravaging the country side" story, but it's not a bad thing.
The basic premise is that a group of friends are trying to make a short Super 8 horror film for a film festival, but during filming witness a horrific train accident. Of course, strange things soon start happening and our pre-teen main characters set out to find out what's behind it.
First and foremost, this movie is a coming of age story. Our main character, Joe is still getting over the death of his mother, an event that has driven a wedge between him and his father. During the production of the super 8 movie, Joe finds himself working with his crush, Alice, who's father many believe is to blame for the accident that killed Joe's mother. The story of the kids and their relationships is really what draws in you, as they are written exceptionally well. From the friendly banter to the being foul mouthed, there were many times during this movie that these kids reminded me of myself and my friends during middle school.
As for the performances, well they were spot on. Steven Spielberg has a great track record with directing kids and Abrams steps into that role perfectly as there isn't one weak performance. Same with the adults, mostly made up of unknowns and "where do I recognize that guy from" actors.
But of course, this is a monster movie and Abrams knows it. While this movie is essentially a big budget character drama, Abrams knows not to get too heavy and has plenty of monster and action scenes to keep everyone watching. Many of the scenes surprised me by being actually pretty intense, including the train crash scene and a gas station scene.
One thing everyone is talking about is the homages to Spielberg, with some people calling Abrams a "Spielberg cover band" and I have to disagree. While the story is classic Spielberg (coming of age mixed with sci-fi)and it has Spielberg's signature sappy stuff, Abrams puts in plenty of his own touches. Unlike Spielberg, Abrams doesn't seem to afraid to pull punches and there are a couple scenes that push the PG-13 boundaries a bit. There are shades of E.T. and Jurassic Park in the story, but overall it remains a faithful homage while also forging it's own identity.
So overall, Super 8 is another strong entry in what has so far been a stellar summer. Its fast, fun, loud, and pulls on your heart strings a bit. While I thought the ending was a bit of a let down, over all it serves the story and the growth of the characters. As a director, J.J. Abrams is 3 for 3 in my book, and after this I can't wait to see what he has in store for Star Trek 2.
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